How does one cut layer cakes, also called 10-inch squares? Previously we’ve figured out how to cut charm squares and mini charm squares, so now it’s time for these large ones to take centre stage!
Why Layer Cake?
Moda Fabrics used to call their blog Moda Bake Shop back in the day, and as a result their precuts were named in the same spirit. Layer Cake is a trademark of Moda, which led other manufacturers to call their own 10″ squares something else.
Regardless of name, this precut measures 10″ x 10″, or 25,4 x 25,4 cm. They are rather big to ship as a result, which may be part of the reason you don’t see them in all craft shops selling quilting fabrics.
Preparing to cut 10″ Squares
Starting From Metric Fat Quarters
These squares are large enough even on fat quarters from 50 cm, or half-metre cuts from the bolt, that they will not to fit two layer cakes on the height. Mathematically put: 50 cm – 25,4 cm = 24,6 cm height remaining.
When cutting from a metric fat quarter, in other words, you will only be able to create two 10″ squares. If you’re starting from a 50-cm cut width-of-fabric, it’s 4 squares.
The remaining strip is 24,6 cm, or 9,68″, tall as concluded above. This leaves ample room for at least a few 5″ charm squares to be cut as well.
And why not cut 2,5″ squares or even more 2″ squares while you’re at it? Notice how many 2″ squares you can get thanks to the metric fat quarter being larger! Perfect for many pixel-quilt patterns.
Starting From US Fat Quarters
The American Fat Quarter measures 18″ tall by 21″ wide (or a bit more depending on the width of the fabric used by the manufacturer in question).
Cutting a 10″ square leaves an 18″ – 10″ = 8″ strip to work with.
This is 9,68″ – 8″ = 1,68″ less than what is yielded from a metric fat quarter.
It will still fit a few 5″ charm squares and some 2,5″ mini charm squares though.
Why does the starting fat quarter or “half-measurement” (half a metre vs. half a yard) matter?
There are two reasons to pay attention:
- It shouldn’t matter mathematically. In practice, however, you may have bought the fabric in a place where great care wasn’t taken regarding how straight or crooked the bolt may have been on the mat in relation to the cutting angle. There may be only just enough fabric, if the cut isn’t nearly 90°.
- When stacking a mix of metric and US fat quarters for bulk cutting, you must check that edges align as you want them to. If you plan to make your own precuts regularly, it’s worth it to work out a system such as “upper edge aligned, lower may differ”.
Moving on to cutting!
Cutting 10″ Squares
Step 1 – Selecting Rulers
When cutting 10″ squares you need to consider your rulers carefully. Cutting-mat grids can usually be off quite a bit, but if you know yours is completely accurate, go ahead and use it as guide.
Maybe your mat is centimetre only though? Or horrifically incorrect as has been seen frequently? My own solution is a combination of a 6″ x 24″ ruler to cover the width of the fat quarter (alternatively folded width-of-fabric) and a 15″ square ruler.
The ruler can be smaller too, such as a 12,5″ square, as long as it is at least 10″ wide on one side.
Step 2 – Using Two Rulers
Now that you’re set up to cut, place the ruler, which is at least ten inches wide, aligned with an edge of the fabric.
Push the ruler down whilst placing the long ruler next to it, completely side by side.
Now push down the long ruler instead, and slide the square ruler along the edge of the long one to check that you have ten inches all the way. If not, adjust the long ruler. Then carefully slide away the square ruler and cut along the long one.
In my case I wanted to see a perfect 10″ mark (smaller ruler dot, larger dot being 5″) both at the upper and lower edges of the fabric.
Side note: Notice that some rulers like mine have two scales starting from either edge. My most frequent cutting mistake is when I get confused regarding the starting point of the scale (was it right or left edge?) around 7″ and 8″, since they are the meeting point. Hence “Measure twice, cut once”.
Step 3 – Double-check Strip Width
Before cutting a 10″ square, check that you’ve picked the 10″ wide piece. The slightly smaller one is confusingly similar in size!
The wider strip will create two 10″ squares and a tiny remnant, like so:
Now you can keep the piece on the left or continue cutting it further into smaller precut sizes as discussed above.
Before wrapping up I want to show beginner quilters one more photo.
If your machine is pretty basic like mine, the needle plate may not be possible to switch out, so the hole where the needle moves into the innards of the machine may be wide to accommodate the width needed for zigzag stitches.
However, when sewing patchwork pieces this may cause them to be eaten up a bit with crumpled corners etc. nuisances as a result.
To avoid this (as well as to avoid using unnecessarily much of expensive sewing thread!) you can cut selvedge bits to use as so-called leaders in front of your patchwork pieces:
Any thread mess stays in this bit and once you feed the nice fabric under the needle, stitches will be neat. These leaders are also fantastic markers between columns of chain piecing and in other situations where you want to separate batches without wasting thread. I really enjoy using every last bit of fabric like this because of sustainability reasons, since the plain selvedges would otherwise simply be chucked out.
So that’s it! Next up is our final precut size to demonstrate: the jelly roll. Do you have some nice patterns in mind using 10″ squares of your own making?